Soldier's Experience of Fear and Trauma in Soldier's Home by Ernest Hemingway

The theme of Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemingway is of fear, experience, loneliness, faith, connection, and conformism. The message of the author in this story is that the experience of war is different for each solider and war isolates soldiers from civil society norms and from their family members as well.

The story narrates the story of a solider name Krebs after he returned home at the end of World War I. At the start of the story reading my understanding about the story was different from understanding at the end of the reading.

The story did not explicitly tell about the event he faced in the war. Also writer, dose not openly tell emotions of the solider but the prose style of the story tells that after War when Krebs returned home he was psychologically suppressed. After the war, he sleeps late, can hardly talk to someone and wanders uselessly in his hometown.

“At first Krebs, [...] did not want to talk about the war at all.

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Later he felt the need to talk but no one wanted to hear about it.'

Further, he used to remain isolate from family and people around him, girls and other soldiers. He failed to adjust in life after the upsetting experiences of war. He did not feel love and sympathy for anyone.

'I don't love anybody,' Krebs said.'

The story further tells that all struggles are themselves a source of trauma the same as caused by war. In his writing author paints a picture of how war continues to disturb the life of soldiers even after war ends.

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At the end of the war, the life of Krebs in his hometown is categorized by tiredness, boredom, and unfriendliness. He likes watching local girls but has no interest in engagement and does not want to work to have a girl. Rather he likes the patterns that the girls make. The wish to connect extends to all other parts of life. This lack of desire for connection extends to all other aspects of his life as well. He told his mother that he cannot pray, he lost the ability to connect with God.

“Now, you pray, Harold,” she said. “I can’t,” Krebs said.

In the last paragraph of the story, he confesses that he had lied, that “none of it had touched him.” The inability to connect with people and God tells us that he is completely crippled by emptiness and apathy.

In the last paragraph of the story, he confesses that he had lied, that “none of it had touched him.” The inability to connect with people and God tells, he is completely crippled emptiness and apathy. The story also clearly states that Krebs was not always this way. For example, it is narrated that before going to war has wan not allowed driving the family moto car. This shows his desire to connect friends and enjoy a social life. But after the war when he came home and one day in the morning his mother comes into his bedroom to tell him that his father allowed him to derive the family car and also he can take girls out but Krebs responded, “I’ll bet you made him.” Krebs knows that his mother is trying to persuade him out of his apathetic inner world, but he has no such desire.

Moreover, Hemingway hardly uses the word feel to define Krebs in the story. When feel is raised, it is in orientation to negative emotions like Krebs feels embarrassed and resentful of praying of his mother, he feels sick and unclearly nauseous after his mother recaps him of how she raised him as a baby and finally he confesses that he feels sorry for his mother. Krebs’ embarrassment and nausea seem to be byproducts of an aversion to feeling, rather than true feelings themselves. Krebs seems severed not only from his town and his family, then, but also from his own self; his feelings are merely sour shadows of the feelings of others.

Without any doubt, clearest reason for Krebs’ disturbance is the war. However, it never represents scenes from the war, the story clues at the way that it has changed Krebs like, how the army trained him that one does not really need a girl, for example, and how Krebs now desires to live without any consequences ever again. There is a logic that Krebs has been more passionately disturbed by the war than possibly even he recognizes. However, the story also proposes that there were instants in the war of true dignity and courage when Krebs “had done the one thing, the only thing for a man to do” and that recalls of these activities might make him feel “cool and clear inside himself.” The war was disturbing as it overwhelmed Krebs.

The story pinpoints the second cause of Krebs’ trauma as rising not from the war itself, but from the real experience of going home. Since he was part of the second division in the army, Krebs comes back home after the first group of soldiers. Consequently, he finds himself in a town that cannot comprehend what he has been through.

Further, the happiest moment for the Krebs in the story arises as he reads a book of history about the war and the fights in which he took part. The book rejoins him to his past and the self he has lost. He wishes the book had more maps. He proposes that the book cannot ever give him the course or sense of self that, through the double trauma of being in the war and then returning from it, now eludes him.

The story concludes with Krebs assenting to follow up with the wish of his mother that he get a job. It is obvious that his mother expects this will be the first step in the re-entrance of Krebs into society. Then the last passage of the story narrates, “He had felt sorry for his mother and she had made him lie. He would go to Kansas City and get a job and she would feel all right about it.” Again, the love and feelings of others sense to Krebs like difficulties that just force him to lie. The story then terminates with Krebs wandering off to watch his sister playing baseball and it is uncertain if he even will fold the energy to go to Kansas City at all. The only thing that is certain is that Krebs in the outcome of the war and his return from it have been completely cut off from the world around him. Hence, in the end, I can safely conclude that the theme of the story is fear, experience, loneliness, faith, connection, and conformism.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Soldier's Experience of Fear and Trauma in Soldier's Home by Ernest Hemingway. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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